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Monday, September 19, 2011

Cards from the Mall: Deron Johnson and CMC Connections

Salt Lake City manager Deron Johnson posed the question to his young hitter that year in 1978.
The question was, how many at bats did Machemer feel he gave away in the course of a season? Johnson, Machemer recalled to The Greatest 21 Days in July, focused on being mentally ready to hit as much as being physically ready.

"That really clicked," Machemer said then. "That really, rally clicked in my mind when he told me that. Just like a light bulb went off."

It was Johnson, coming off a 16-season major league career himself, whom Machemer credited with getting him finally ready to make the majors. Machemer debuted in the majors that June.

Johnson's debut came in 1960, getting into six games that year. That performance helped get him a 1961 Topps card and the 1961 Rookie Star. It was a card I came across last weekend at a local mall, on our way to a movie.

Thumbing through dollar bin vintage cards, and a couple other bins, I came across Johnson's card and paused. Wasn't that one of the guys Machemer credited with getting him to the big leagues? It was.

It's an example of a player I wouldn't have given a second look to, but for this blog. I think that's really cool.

I picked up a bunch of other cards, including direct CMC set members. These are the cards I picked up of players who have CMC connections.

This 1970 Topps card caught my eye for the player in the center, Hal McRae. He is the father of CMC set member Brian McRae, whom I featured here back in March. The father played 19 seasons in the majors, the son played 10.

With the father on the card are Vern Geishert and Wayne Simpson. Geishert got into just 11 major league games in his career, all in 1969. Simpson got into six big league seasons, his last time coming in 1977.

On this card, I've shaken the hand of half the players. That came last month at a Brockton Rox-Pittsfield Colonials game, just before my interview with Ed Nottle. Buckner was the Brockton manager, Nottle one of his coaches.

Buckner, of course, had a long career in the majors, playing in 22 seasons. His card mate, Jack Jenkins got into parts of just three, getting into all of eight games.

Felipe Alou is another father with a son in the CMC set. The father got into 17 seasons, while his son Moises Alou got into 17. The back of Felipe's 1971 Topps card notes his other familial relationships.

"Greatest baseball thrill for Felipe occurred 9/10/63," the card back reads, "when all 3 Alous, Felipe along with Matty & Jesus, played in the majors together for the 1st time. All 3 batted for Giants in 8th inning vs. Mets at Polo Grounds."

The last two are 1974 Ron Santo cards, the regular Cubs version up top and the traded version here. The Cubs version is just a cool photo. The guy standing directly to Santo's right, No. 2, would be Cubs coach Bobby Adams. Adams turned to coaching after a playing career that lasted 14 seasons.

But the reason why Santo is here is because of the traded card. Santo was traded to the Cubs for 1974 in exchange for Steve Stone and three others.

One of those three others was catcher Steve Swisher. Swisher would go on to be a manager in the minors, serving as manager of the Tidewater Tides in 1990. I featured both Swisher's playing days and his managerial career in August.

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